Every so often Jim Clements puts out an album and not enough people cop on. It’s kind of understandable. There’s very much music to be heard and no shortage of downbeat blokes doing a broadly Americanaish thing with guitars, keys and strings. There’s definitely a temptation to think that life might be too short to stay abreast of them all. A few years back I was slowly drowning in such stuff until the Swans return lobbed me a life belt. But that’s another story. Suffice to say that there are only a few such artists I’ve felt it worth keeping an eye on in subsequent years and Jim Clements is one of them. A Failure, ironically, captures all the reasons perfectly.
It’s a deceptively simple collection of songs. Munch on the cover and Larkin quoted inside tells you it isn’t going to to be a 40 minute festival of positivity. And indeed there’s a heady mixture of despair and self-laceration. But that wouldn’t keep you coming back. In common with Clements’ previous albums, the songs come generously laced with a bleak and often sharp humour. It comes both in the form of clever little stabs – insidious couplets that reveal themselves – and great slabs – The Advice Song (Just Give Up) does what it says on the tin in full Malcolm Middleton stylee. On the face of it the reflective songs should add up to a catalogue of regrets, except that there’s a sense that the protagonists are either too listless, broken or complacent to indulge in anything as active as regret.
So it’s clever and engaging gloom. But, just as importantly, it’s also a damn fine collection of tunes. You got to have that if you’re going finish off with a 12 minute bleary-Dylan jailcell epic. And despite the slow pace, Fire Engine Blues is catchy enough to have you whistling the chorus at work.
Not a failure then. In fact something of a downbeat triumph. Do take the chance to give Jim Clements a go this time around.
The album is out on 26th October. Pre-order it on Bandcamp.